During its July 22 Leander ISD Board of Trustees meeting, the Board recognized outstanding students, reviewed a community-led committee’s recommendations for a November bond election, and received a construction update.
Board continues deliberations on a potential bond election
A majority of likely voters told us we need more classrooms to accommodate growth and that they would support a school bond election item recently recommended by a citizens’ committee to fund new schools, update aging facilities, and replace outdated technology.
A month after the Citizens’ Facility Advisory Committee (CFAC) recommended a $933.4 million bond election for November 2021 that impacts all students, we presented the results of a likely voter survey conducted earlier this month. In the survey, voters were more likely to support the potential election item, especially after learning about how it would address growth, aging schools and facilities, and updating technology to enhance learning.
Trustee conversations revolved around the following areas:
- financing plans for a bond, if voter-approved, without increasing the tax rate;
- plans for adding schools of choice for high school students; and
- considering building utilization optimization and consideration for attendance zoning issues.
While our Trustees shared their gratitude for the community committee and staff who selected and reviewed the recommendation’s project, they shared concerns regarding the total dollar amount being considered. Staff also presented a detailed overview of how we would manage the new debt, if approved by voters, without increasing the tax rate.
Over the next 10 years, our demographer expects us to add more than 12,000 students, requiring us to build nine new schools (seven elementary schools, one middle and one high school).
Five CFAC subcommittees, comprised of parents and community leaders, presented their recommendations to a 25-member steering committee in May. All of the meetings and materials are available online for the entire community to access.
Trustees will pick up this conversation with a workshop meeting before our next regular meeting on Aug. 5. Trustees would need to call the election by Aug. 16 for the Nov. 2 ballot.
Recommendation: Please keep wearing your mask
As the rates of COVID-19 spread spike as a result of the delta-variant, Superintendent Bruce Gearing, Ed.D. recommended all students, staff, and visitors to our schools continue to wear a mask, regardless of their vaccination status, in alignment with the Austin Public Health (APH) and Williamson County and Cities Health District (WCCHD) recommendation.
While schools and public agencies can no longer require masks, per an executive order by the governor, local health departments and the American Academy of Pediatricians advise their continued use. The COVID Health Protocols webpage outlines plans we put into place earlier in the summer. We will be updating those procedures as we continue to learn more from our public health agencies in the coming week.
Virtual learning in 2021–22 limited due to funding concerns
Although many of our families asking for a virtual school option, state legislators did not approve legislation providing funding for students in virtual schools. While our Board opted to use federal funding to provide virtual school as an option for just over 300 students in 2021-22, those monies could have been used to fund other initiatives to support learning.
During the meeting, the board emphasized that in-person learning is optimal, but asked about other options that exist to pursue virtual learning for those students that need it. The board was encouraged to let lawmakers and state leaders know of the need for virtual learning. It is anticipated the legislature will have a second special session making this a timely request.
District successfully advocates for student-data privacy bill
After advocating for two Texas Legislative sessions for new laws protecting student data, the state adopted new laws supporting the vision of our Board of Trustees and staff.
During the Legislative Update, our legislative consultant shared a status update on our legislative priorities, including advocacy for protecting student data by requiring the state and public school vendors to adhere to a standard data masking procedure. Effective 2023, HB 363/SB 1526 will bring protections to students.
“Data privacy for students is vital and I am so thankful for the district and its advocates’ efforts in emphasizing the importance of standard data masking procedures,” Board President Trish Bode said. “Thanks to our elected officials, Trustees and community, students in Leander ISD and across the state of Texas will benefit from these efforts.”
Parents, students, staff survey data provides insight on district efforts to create safe, engaging learning spaces
Overall, 89% of our elementary students and 74% of our secondary students rated their school as excellent or good, while 91% of parents rated their child’s physical well-being as excellent or good in our annual school quality survey.
In partnership with K12 Insight, we surveyed parents and guardians for feedback on the climate and culture at their child(ren)’s school on the following topics:
- Academic Preparation
- Student Support
- Family Involvement
- School Leadership
- Safety and Behavior
- Educational Programs and Services
- School Facilities
- Additional School Operations
Students in grades 3–12 used their student IDs to access the survey in school, rating their school experience on the following topics:
- Academic Preparation
- Student Support
- Family Involvement (Elementary Students Only)
- School Leadership (Secondary Students Only)
- Safety and Behavior
- Programs and Services (Secondary Students Only)
- School Facilities (Secondary Students Only)
- Additional School Operations (Secondary Students Only)
The survey in English and Spanish was open January 27 – March 28.
We also used the online survey tool BrightBytes to gather information from our students, teachers, and parents on our ongoing technology use in the classroom. This survey provides insights to determine technology effectiveness in improving student learning and measure growth in the 5 Cs (collaboration, creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, and citizenship) and connections to the updated graduate profile.
The district scored exceptionally high in several areas in our annual employee engagement survey, administered in February in partnership with the Institute for Organizational Excellence at UT-Austin. Employee engagement focuses on the sense of trust and the level of employees’ participation in carrying out their work responsibilities towards delivering high-quality work. We share the survey results with principles and directors so that they can review with their leadership teams.
Summer construction work continues at several LISD campuses
As part of a general construction update, Chief Facilities Officer Jimmy Disler dissected the ongoing work around the district, including progress at:
- Tarvin Elementary School (New Construction) – Complete staff move-in
- Cedar Park Middle School (HVAC Update) – Complete punch-list items on lights, carpet and security upgrades
- Steiner Ranch Elementary (HVAC Update) – Complete punch-list items on lights, carpet and security upgrades
- Vista Ridge High School (Facility Additions) – JROTC Building Additions and Renovations, Incubator Renovations and Security Upgrade
District welcomes new principals as Rouse, New Hope high schools
The district’s leader for advanced academics, Tonya Thompson, Ed.D., will take the helm at Rouse High School as its next principal. A former counselor and assistant principal, including time at Rouse HS, Thompson replaces Christine Simpson, who recently joined the district’s leadership team as an area superintendent.
Leander High School assistant principal and former U.S. Navy technician Caly Currier, Ed.D. will lead the district’s New Hope High School.